Road Trip to Amazing Tawang

Discussion in 'Travelogues from East and North-East India' started by santanu, Jul 8, 2018.

  1. santanu

    santanu Active Member

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    After planning for a Tawang trip for several years, we managed to do it this year in early May. Since I pick up a lot of information from BCM Touring, I share my experience of the trip with the other members in this forum. That’s why this travelogue. Since I did not take notes during the trip, there may be some errors in distance, timing mentioned in this travelogue. I hope members won’t mind that.

    The team consisted eight members – three members from Mumbai (me, my wife and daughter), one member from Delhi (my sister-in-law from Delhi) and four members from Kolkata (my parents, my father-in-law and my brother-in law). My parents are above 70 and Father-in-Law is above 60. Though I have read at many places that it is bit risky to take senior citizens to a high altitude place like Tawang, fortunately they did not face any difficulty during the trip. Few years back, I took my parents to Spiti and there also they did not face any problem. So Spiti trip experience gave me confidence to take them to Tawang also.

    Typically, for a trip of this nature, I do a proper planning and book everything well before the trip. But his time, other than booking air tickets of Mumbai-Kolkata-Guwahati and return ticket from Guwahati to Kolkata to Mumbai (combination of RaiI and Air) and arranging ILP, I could not do anything upfront. So even seven days before the trip, the exact route to be taken, places to stay and see, vehicle and hotels were uncertain.

    We got our ILP from Kolkata. A couple of months before the trip, I was at Kolkata. During that time, I went to Arunachal Bhavan at Salt Lake. They gave a form. The form was pretty simple. After submitting the from along with photos and identity documents, I came back to Mumbai. I gave the receipt of submission of the form to my Brother-in-Law and he collected the ILP after a couple of week. If I am not wrong, it costed Rs. 10/- per person. It was a pretty simple, inexpensive and efficient process.

    The initial itinerary prepared by me was as follows:

    Day 1 : Guwahati to Tejpur/Bhalukpong
    Day 2: Tejpur/Bhalukpong to Bomdila
    Day 3 : Bomdila to Tawang
    Day 4 : Obtaining necessary permission for Bumla pass and Tawang local sightseeing
    Day 5 : Day trip from Tawang to Bum La Pass, Pengateng Tso Lake (PT Tso Lake) and Shonga-tser Lake (Madhuri Lake)
    Day 6 : Day trip to Lumla and Zemithang from Tawang
    Day 7 : Tawang to Dirang
    Day 8 : Dirang to Guwahati
    Day 9 : Local sightseeing at Guwahati
    Day 10 : Commencement of return journey

    Our scheduled start day from Guwahati was 28th April and return date from Guwahati was 7th May.

    One of my cousins stay at Itanagar. When he came to know about the trip plan, he advised to change it and to undertake the trip latest by mid-April because rain starts by May in Arunachal Pradesh. But by the time the tickets have been booked so date change was not possible. It was also not possible otherwise because summer vacation of my daughter was scheduled to start from 28th April. So we stuck to our original travel dates. During the trip, my cousin’s prediction proved true. We encountered moderate to severe rain during the trip. The sky was always cloudy. We rarely got sunny days. So the dream of clicking ice clad picks and blue water lake in sunny days remain unfulfilled. But the brighter side is we experienced abundant snowfall at Sela Pass and at Bumla. And for the people from the plains, experiencing snowfall is second to none.

    Initially, it was planned that we would take two Sumo/Innova from Guwahati for the entire trip. For Bumla day trip from Tawang, we would take local vehicles because the local taxi union does not allow outside vehicles to go to Bumla. Over a period of time, the plan of taking two Sumo/Innova from Guwahati changed to taking one Tempo Traveller from Guwahati.

    I discussed this matter with my cousin who stays at Itanagar and he told that he would arrange the tempo traveller.

    But it took quite a long time to arrange the tempo traveller. It got finalized only 15 days before the trip and the charge was Rs. 50000/-, all inclusive, for the entire trip, from Guwahati to Guwahati. I was fine with that. But when that fellow that the entire amount has to be given him in advance through net banking, I became bit hesitant. After giving him the entire money, if I cannot trace him at Guwahati Airport, that would be a huge problem. And my cousin stays at Itanagar and therefore, he cannot be of any help in that eventuality.

    So I started looking for alternate options over the net and came across three companies (not zoom car) who offer self driven vehicle on rent and immediately contacted them. My requirement was an Innova because eight people with luggage will not fit in a Scorpio and Ertiga. But it proved to be difficult to get an Innova in such a short notice. Finally, one of the agencies, who ranks at the bottom as per customer review, offered an Innova. Their charge was Rs. 25000/- for 9 days. I knew that they were charging more than the market rate, which is Rs. 2500 per day, but I did not have any option other than taking Innova from them in spite of higher charge and pathetic reputation. So I confirmed my booking with them. They told me that the car will be delivered at a place within 2 kms from the airport so we can straight way head to our destination from Guwahati airport.

    As the tour plan took the shape of traveling through a self-driven vehicle, we started looking at the routes in more detail. And then I came across to an alternate route to Bomdila from Guwahati via Kalaktang.

    The Kalaktang Route:

    Screen Shot 2018-07-08 at 7.44.01 AM.png

    The conventional route:

    Screen Shot 2018-07-08 at 7.44.31 AM.png

    As per few trip reports available on internet, the road condition is very good in most of the part of the Kalaktang road and there will be very less traffic. Guwahati to Bomdila is very much possible in a day. So we decided to take this route. Further, I read from Internet that road condition of Bhalukpong-Bomdila stretch of the traditional route is very pathetic. That also prompted me to try this new found route.

    However, there was a word of caution about the Kalaktang route. This route is primarily used by army. Very few local vehicles and tourist vehicles ply on this route. No support system in form of food stalls, car mechanic is available along this route. We understood the ramification of the same in a very hard way while retuning along the same route.

    Since we were saving one day in this new route, the itinerary changed a bit and the new itinerary was as follows:

    Day 1 : Guwahati to Bomdila
    Day 2: Bomdila to Tawang
    Day 3 : Obtaining necessary permission for Bumla pass and Tawang local sightseeing
    Day 4 : Day trip from Tawang to Bum La Pass, Pengateng Tso Lake (PT Tso Lake) and Sangetsar Lake (Madhuri Lake)
    Day 5 : Day trip to Lumla and Zemithang from Tawang
    Day 6 : Tawang to Dirang
    Day 7 : Dirang Local Sightseeing
    Day 8 : Dirang to Guwahati
    Day 9 : Local sightseeing at Guwahati
    Day 10 : Commencement of return journey

    While booking the self-driven vehicle, I came to know that these vehicles do not have overhead carrier because that is not permitted. That gave another headache of how to fit the luggages. So we decided to carry clothes and food stuff in Rucksacks and Kitbags and not to carry any hard body Suitcase because it is easy to fit Rucksacks and Kitbags because of the flexible shape.

    After finalising the vehicle and the route, I started the process of booking accommodation only 7 days before the commencement of the trip. Then I realised that it is high season and no rooms were available in the hotels (which are listed on internet) at Bomdila and Tawang. At Dirang, rooms were available at the hotel ‘Snow Lion’ so booked that immediately because Dirang has few staying options. For Bomdila and Tawang, I started hoping that since those two places have plenty of hotels, we would get something after reaching there. For Guwahati, we booked Tranqville Guest house.


    Just two days before the commencement of the journey, the car agency informed that they could not deliver the vehicle at the airport. We will be required to pick up the Innova from the city office which is good ~ 25 km away from airport. So it would take precious 2-3 hours of the morning.


    All of us were very excited about the trip to Tawang and Bumla. At the same time, there were few apprehensions in my mind on account of the decision of self driving on a route where few have gone by driving themselves (compared to Ladakh, Spiti or elsewhere), accommodation not confirmed, chance of rain etc. But then “Sochna Keya, Jo Bhi Hoga Dekha Jayega” spirit prevailed and the trip took off. On 27th evening, we started for Mumbai airport from Goregaon for catching 11.10 pm Go Air flight to Kolkata.

    In the subsequent posts, I will give day to day update. But as mentioned earlier, I did not do any noting during the trip. So my day to day update will contain more photos and less information.

    Now, let me give a glimpse of visual treat which we got in this trip.

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    WhatsApp Image 2018-07-08 at 9.09.43 AM.jpeg t.jpeg
     
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2018
  2. alb_trp

    alb_trp Member

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    Beautiful.!!!
     
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  3. Shekhar Surve

    Shekhar Surve Member

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    Very nice. Keep pouring...
     
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  4. santanu

    santanu Active Member

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    Thanks
     
  5. santanu

    santanu Active Member

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    My pleasure!!
     
  6. santanu

    santanu Active Member

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    Day 1 (28th April, 2018)

    Our flight from Mumbai was delayed by ~ 1hrs. But that did not became an issue because the connecting flight from Kolkata to Guwahati was at 5.20 am. It was an Indigo flight.

    By the time we landed at Kolkata airport, Sister-in-Law had already reached there from Delhi and Parents and In-Laws also were at airport. So, we spent a few hours in at Kolkata airport by chitchatting and having some early morning snacks. I was bit worried about the sleepless night because a long drive was awaiting for the day but did not have any option.

    The flight took off on time from Kolkata.

    a.jpg

    It reached Guwahati 15-20 minutes before the scheduled time. It was a sunny morning at Guwahati.

    We took two cabs to reach the office of the car rental company. First we tried Ola/Uber and then finally opted for normal taxi. In the process we lost almost 30 minutes. Then it took around 45 minutes to reach their office.

    Since it was Saturday, their office was not fully operational. There was only one fellow for completing the paper works and delivering the car. When we reached there, he was busy in delivering a bike to an adventurist who was heading for a bike tour of Mizoram. After that process got over, then he took our papers, security deposit and given the key of the Innova. The car was quite old and already covered ~ 78000 km. It did not have any GPS, charging point and music system was not fully function. But as we were running late, we did not have the time to get into an argument on these matters. Because of the paucity of time, we also could not check the overall condition of the vehicle properly for which we faced trouble later.

    Somehow we managed to fit all living and non-living objects participating in the trip in Innova and finally started from Guwahati around 9.30 am.

    From the car rental office, we drove back towards airport and from the mid-way took right turn to cross the mighty Brahmaputra via Saraighat Bridge. Initially we had plans to take some photos of might Brahmaputra but abandoned that pal because we were running late.

    After crossing the Brahmaputra, the road was good. It was a two lane highway and surface was smooth. Though the road condition was good, I was driving at a speed lower than 80 kms/hr because it was a new vehicle to me and I was trying to get a hang of it. This was the first time I was driving an Innova.

    We did not have anything since morning and therefore started feeling hungry and started looking for a decent road side food joint for having something. Finally, we found a decent food joint and had our brunch with Puri-Sabji. The place was most probably Mangaldoi, though I am not quite sure . After this place, the road became single lane so our speed came down. But the road condition was good. Our next stoppage was a petrol pump. Immediately after that Google Map advised us to leave NH and take a left turn. We obliged.

    From there single lane village road started. Road condition was good. So driving was not a hassle. Sometimes we were moving northward and sometimes eastward. The road was through green agricultural land dotted by villages, markets and schools. After 45-60 minutes, landscape started changing. Rocky uneven surfaces started emerging and the Great Himalayas became visible.

    We entered Arunachal Pradesh at a place called Balemu.

    Hill road started from Balemu. It is called Trans-Himalayan Highway.

    The condition of the road matched exactly to its description available on Internet. The surface was good. The road was quite wide. Driving on this road was an absolute pleasure.

    There was almost no traffic. There was absolutely no passenger vehicles plying on this road. On the entire journey along this route, we encountered very few vehicles and all those were army ones. We also crossed a couple of army convoys.

    There was no locality in the vicinity of the road and there was no shops too. Around 1.30/2 pm we gave a stop for having some dry snacks which we were carrying.

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    After 10-15 minutes' break, the wheels started to roll again. By that time clouds started ringing the closing bell for the bright sunny day experienced by us till that time. The surrounding started getting dark. We also started getting worried whether we would be able to reach Bomdila before evening.

    We finally managed a get a food stall after non-stop driving for 2 hours. By that time we had crossed Kalaktang. In between, we encountered few spells of light drizzle. The Sun also came out few times making the lush green of surroundings brighter.

    c1.jpg c2.jpg

    Only Thukpa was available in the food stall. So we had that. For next few days Momo and Thukpa became our staple diet. In the stall, we asked local people about how long it would take to reach Bomdila. They said that the road was in good condition and we would be able to reach Bomdila in 2 hours – one hour to Rupa from that place and another hour from Rupa to Bomdila. After finishing Thukpa followed by hot tea, we started driving towards Rupa.

    After 15-20 minutes’ drive, the road opened up to a beautiful valley. The road surface became smoother. The surroundings were lush green. The sun also came out. It was a mesmerizing experience. We were crossing the beautiful Shergaon valley.

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    Once we crossed the valley, again the narrow mountain road started with high peaks on one side and deep gorge on the other side. Here the mountains were completely barren and the rocks were multi-coloured. A closer look at the rocks revealed that it was a landslide prone area. So, we did not take the chance of stopping the vehicle there and took photographs from the moving vehicle.

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    We were approaching Rupa.

    There was a diversion from the main road. In all probability, it was for Silipaung Monastery. But we did not take the detour and continued our progress toward Rupa along the main road. The objective was to reach Bomdila before evening especially given the fact that we had not booked our accommodation.

    When we are 3 /4 kms away from Rupa, we found a stoppage signal. There was a boom barrier blocking the road. An army personnel was sitting there. We got down from the car and enquired the army man whether we can move ahead. The reply was ‘no’. So we started wondering how we would reach Bomdila. We started thinking whether we should go back to take the diversion and reach Bomdila via Silipaung Monastery route. In the mean time, we heard the army man was talking to someone over the phone and could make out from the conversation that an army convoy was approaching that stretch from Kalaktang side. Once the telephonic conversion got over, the boom barrier got lifted and we were allowed to move ahead. My guess is that army allows civilians to cross this stretch along with army vehicles only because of slide prone nature of this area.

    After some time, we reached Rupa and joined the Bhalukpong-Bomdila-Dirang-Tawang road and took left turn towards Bomdila. Immediately after taking the left turn, we crossed a small river and the welcome gate of Rupa.

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    The road started ascending after crossing the army cantonment at Rupa. We reached Bomdila around 6 pm.

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    After checking a couple of hotels there, we finally got a hotel where rooms were available as well as parking slot. We booked 4 rooms – 3 valley view and one road/hill view.

    The temperature was ~ 8 degree. We were shivering. But I guess that was not because of the absolute level of the temperature. That was the effect of change of temperature from above 30 degree to sub-10 degree in a span of 8 hours.

    g3.jpg

    Since it was a long day, we had an early dinner and retired.
     
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2018
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  7. sanuroxz

    sanuroxz Super User

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    Fantastic log... waiting for more..
     
  8. sajalsheth

    sajalsheth Still Learning ©

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  9. santanu

    santanu Active Member

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    Thanks.....my pleasue
     
  10. santanu

    santanu Active Member

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